During the previous two days I got my best shots at the Petrified Forest National Park in northern Arizona. But I also visited three national monuments, the best preserved meteor impact site on Earth, and the neat town of Winslow, Arizona. I started yesterday in Flagstaff, Arizona, and ended it very late at night in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
As I drove down from the Grand Canyon to Flagstaff I took a little detour through Wupakti and Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument. Around the year 1100 the Sinagua people, who probably were assimilated into the Hopi culture, begin building pueblos:
But people of a different culture, the Anasazi, lived not far away in this three-story house atop the Moenkopi Sandstone outcrop from about 1120 to 1210:
No one knows why they abandoned their homes here. But the timing of their arrival is so close after the eruption of Sunset Crater in 1040, also just a few miles away, that it almost certainly wasn’t a coincidence.
Here as viewed from Walnut Canyon National Monument you can see the crater at the left with Humphreys Peak, the highest point in Arizona at 12,637 feet, in the center:
The Sinagua people lived above Walnut Creek about the same time, between about 1100 to 1250. But they didn’t have to build pueblos. Instead, they built cliff dwellings. Here is a view of one of those homes as seen from my hike along the Rim Trail. I also hiked the trail down into Walnut Creek, a level part of which you can see just above the cliff dwellings. That insured that I got much more than my allotted 10,000 steps. Note the man standing there just to left of center:
These are indeed ancient homes. But in the much more distant past, about 50,000 years ago, a meteor created what is probably the most famous crater, Meteor Crater, better known as Barringer Crater in honor of Daniel Barringer who was first to suggest that a meteor produced it. The Barringer family owns it.
However, my visit to the crater was the low point of my trip. Try as I might, I didn’t get any good photos of it of this huge hole in the ground. It is 700 feet deep and 4,000 feet across. Wikipedia has a much better photo of it than I was able to capture. They had an airplane or a helicopter, and I didn’t:
But after my short detour to Meteor (aka Barringer) Crater my trip returned to its positive trajectory. The return began in the little northern Arizona town of Winslow. As soon as that name crept into my consciousness, my mind kept replaying the lyrics of Jackson Browne’s song, “Take it Easy.”
The lines from that piece, which I have heard him sing on records, CDs, and also in a live performance when I lived in Santa Barbara, were:
I’m a-standin on the corner in Winslow, Arizona
With such a fine sight to see
It’s a girl, my lord, in a flatbed Ford
Slowin down to take a look at me
While I was standing on that corner, I saw several girls. I took a look at them:
Eating lunch at the reconstructed famous La Posada Hotel was another trip high for me. The salad of quail, greens, arugula, and sunchokes tossed in a prickly pear cactus vinaigrette and garnished with goodies like Chioggia beets combined with the fantastic ambience of the hotel that Mary Colter designed for the Santa Fe Railroad and the Fred Harvey Company was truly memorable. The hotel opened in 1930, closed in 1957, and reopened in 1997.
I visited those places because they were there, along my route. But the place I came for was the Petrified Forest National Park.
About 200 million years ago in the Triassic period trees here were mineralized into silica, colored with oxides of iron and manganese. While these petrified logs remind me of the redwoods of Pacific Coast, they were actually an ancient family of conifers that are now extinct in the Northern Hemisphere but survive south of the Equator.
The well-known Painted Desert is a unit of the Petrified Forest that I made sure not to miss. I got there at the perfect time, just before sunset. I took this shot at 6:06 p.m. yesterday evening from Chinde Point:
While my timing was perfect for photography, it meant that I had to drive five hours after dark. It was 75 mph on the Interstate all the way to Albuquerque, when I spent the night.